A fashion line for an elite. A new leader shows himself to be less than competent, is delegitimized, and will later sink into madness. Code hacking. And though an administration’s inner circle has close Jewish connections, the real power behind the throne encourages open antisemitism to flourish. These are some of the elements in this weekend’s readings for Parashat Tetsaveh (Exodus 27:20 – 30:10), Shabbat Zachor, and Purim.
In Tetsaveh, we segue from the Tabernacle construction to its function via instructions for the menorah, which is to be lit continually, using pure, uncontaminated olive oil. Then we get into the instructions for the priestly vestments, including particularly elaborate ones for Aaron, the High Priest (Kohen Gadol).
As with the plans for the Tabernacle, the instructions are so detailed that kits are available for purchase today. The garments for the priests (Aaron’s sons) include fringed linen tunics, linen turbans, embroidered sashes, and linen breeches. The High Priest also wears a breastplate, an ephod, and a blue robe with alternating gold bells and pom-poms
(“pomegranates”) of blue, purple, and crimson yarn. (Frankly, when I look at all the paraphernalia, I wonder how the High Priest didn’t succumb to heat exhaustion.) By the way, this was my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah Torah portion. She liked the bells on the hem but fretted over learning the obscure names of the 12 gemstones.
As I noted last year, parts of the High Priest’s outfit are functional in a ritual manner (see Baruch J. Schwartz, “The ‘Garments’ of the High Priest: Anthropomorphism in the Worship of God”). Having the names of all 12 tribes carved on the gemstones symbolize that the High Priest represents all the people. When he performs his duties, especially out of sight, the bells indicate that he is moving, thus alive. The gold diadem on his head is inscribed “Holy to the Lord,” which is to ensure, that the Lord accept the people’s offerings. And there’s my favorite, the Urim v’Thumim (literally, lights and completeness). The breastplate was folded in half to form a pocket. The High Priest would insert in the pocket a sheet of parchment with the Lord’s name written on it and ask a question. Letters would then light up on the gemstones and be decoded by the High Priest. Very Star Trek.
And then we read the details of the ordination and sacrifices, etc., which we’ll see again in a few weeks.
Shabbat Zachor (“Remember”) is the second of the 4 special Sabbaths leading up to Passover. The second scroll reading, Deut. 25:17-19, for once does not concern sacrifices, but instead refers to an attack by Amalek on the stragglers after the crossing of the sea (Ex. 17:8-16). We are commanded to wipe out the name of Amalek and never forget what he did. Through the ages, Amalek became a symbol for evildoers, which is one reason this is read on the Sabbath before Purim. But first, we also have a dramatic haftarah, (1 Samuel 1-34 or 2-34. No, I don’t know why). King Saul only partly obeys orders to wipe out all the Amalekites and loses control of the people, who take forbidden booty. He lets the king, Agag, live. Samuel, tells him his nascent kingship is doomed and kills Agag instead. Saul will rule for years yet, sinking into madness.
And, yes, that is related to Purim, on which we read the Book of Esther, exchange food gifts (Shalach Manot), give to the poor, eat hamantaschen, drink, dress up in costumes (ah, a link to the priestly vestments?), and generally have a good time. Traditionally, Mordecai and Haman are descendants of the families of Saul and Amalek, respectively, and we noisily blot out Haman’s name during the reading. Usually at this point I harp on how this is not a sweet children’s story about an innocent girl who wins a beauty contest and saves her people; come on, it involves eunuchs, courtesan training, and a king who chooses his queen by trying candidates out every night, not to mention murder plots and attempted genocide.
This year, though we’re commanded to be happy the whole month of Adar, I haven’t been able to get in the mood. I am naturally subdued for the first week and a half, which includes the observance of the yahrzeits of my father, mother, and mother-in-law. The snow outside isn’t helping. More significantly, today’s world fills me with foreboding, especially the flaunting of antisemitism all across the country. My local JCC has had four bomb threats and the cemetery in Brooklyn where my great-grandmother is buried has been vandalized. So how am I supposed to be happy?
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes that this entire month of joy, as well as the holiday, is supposed to be therapeutic (The Therapeutic Joy of Purim):
“On Purim the Final Solution was averted. But it had been pronounced. Ever afterward, Jews knew their vulnerability. The very existence of Purim in our historical memory is traumatic.
“The Jewish response to trauma is counterintuitive and extraordinary. You defeat fear by joy. You conquer terror by collective celebration. You prepare a festive meal, invite guests, give gifts to friends. While the story is being told, you make a rumbustious noise as if not only to blot out the memory of Amalek, but to make a joke out of the whole episode. You wear masks. You drink a little too much. You make a Purim spiel.
“Precisely because the threat was so serious, you refuse to be serious – and in that refusal you are doing something very serious indeed. You are denying your enemies a victory. You are declaring that you will not be intimidated.”
Shabbat shalom and Purim Sameach (Happy Purim),
How many Mossad agents does it take to change a light bulb?
Light bulb? There was no light bulb.
How many Shin Bet operatives does it take to change a light bulb?
We ask the questions around here.
How many Chabbadniks does it take to change a lightbulb?
None! It’s not dead! –
Church unveils new swine flu vestments
The Church of England has announced that following its introduction of special swine flu prayers, new clergy vestments are now available in case of a further outbreak of the deadly virus.
The discreet vestments (see left) make it possible for church life to go on absolutely as normal. Each clergy suit is hermetically sealed to provide 8 hours of total biological protection from parishioners, visitors, Alpha group leaders, the organist, fellow clergy and other noxious hazards.
“I don’t know why the Archbishop hasn’t issued them before now – they would have been a life saver during after-church coffee,” said Revd Ian Fluenza, who donned his new vestments as soon as he received them, and is said to be sleeping in them.
The vestments, which are in liturgical orange, are intended for use at the Service of Commemoration for the Loss of a Mexican Holiday, and other new Church of England liturgies
Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller
May 27, 2016
Celebrity Bintel Brief: Jared + Ivanka Answer all Your Questions (excerpt)
My wife says that as a historically oppressed minority, we Jews have an obligation to fight for a just society that protects the rights of all minorities, Jews included. But I think we need to look out for ourselves — if Donald sees we support him then he’ll take care of us.
What do you think?
Self-Interested In Santa Monica, Ca.
I hear a lot of kvetching about how Steve Bannon and his white nationalist followers are “coming for” the Jews, but that’s just silly. I’ve been in on these discussions, and while I can’t break confidence, suffice it to say there’s a long list of groups ahead of us – first they’ll come for the Muslims, then the Hispanics, Blacks, and so forth. I can assure you, we’re way down the list.
As long as we say nothing, we should be fine.
Top Ten Uses for Leftover, Stale Hamataschen
(oldie but goodie, written by IGP)
- Disposable kippot (“yarmulkes”, for you old folks)
- Scoop out the old filling and use as a cereal bowl
- Earrings (mini-hamantaschen only)
- Frisbees? Need to check aerodynamics*
- Template for drawing Jewish stars in Hebrew school classes
- Model for geometry lessons on triangles
- New game like Jenga (sp? the one where you fit wooden rods together to form a tower until a rod makes it fall)
- Layer for bottom of bird or small rodent cages (need to crumble first)
- Use in pot pies: scoop out filling, fill with chicken and vegetables, cover with broken pieces of a second hamantaschen, and bake. For more interesting results, don’t bother to scoop out the original filling.
- Use as teething ‘rings’ for babies. Also for kids who’ve just had their braces tightened and have ‘tingly teeth.’
*Local rabbinical decision based on actual test data: Doesn’t work. Try badminton instead.
The Jewish Weak – Headlines In The Purim Issue (selected)
BY JEWISH WEEK EDITORS March 8, 2017, 11:32 am
TRUMP SHUTS DOWN ELECTORAL COLLEGE
After Trump U. fiasco, president declares “universities, colleges, they’re all rigged.”
JEWISH GROUPS ANGERED OVER WHITE HOUSE PURIM STATEMENT
Even Mort Klein upset with declaration that holiday marks ‘ancient’ Persian event when wide variety of ethnic minorities’ were saved.
RABBIS TO SPEED UP SABBATH SERVICES
Following Major League Baseball lead, congregants will be granted Intentional Walks to the lobby; speed readers to be hired for Torah portions; spitting, tobacco chewing and crotch adjustments banned.
NYTIMES COLUMNISTS HAVE COLLECTIVE STROKE
Paul Krugman, Charles Blow, David Brooks overdose on Trump bashing.
TRUMP, BIBI MARRIAGE RUMORS ‘PREMATURE’
Admit infatuation, possible engagement, “but, alas, Donald not ready for lasting commitment,” prime minister acknowledges.
TRUMP DENOUNCES JEWISH WEAK: ‘All TRUE,’ he insists.
Editors insist content hilarious satire; readers confused, divided, annoyed.
NEW PRESSURE ON JARED KUSHNER
After meeting with Russian ambassador revealed, Democrats urge him to step down as son-in-law.
JCCs SET UP SPECIAL LINE FOR PHONE-IN THREATS
Would-be bombers urged to be patient if line is busy; each will be handled in turn.
RECORD FUNDS RAISED TO COMBAT BDS
But Pew finds 97 percent on campus think BDS an underwear brand.